So I’m back in Albania for the 3rd visit, but this time, we’re just 7 in a hotel on the outskirts of Tirana. The idea is to train up a number of folks who can help to pass on some of the vision, skills and materials for this kind of ministry around Albania. It is wonderful to be able to spend decent lengths of time with just a few, rather than doing the usual conference thing of afew superficial chats here and there. Breakfast this morning was certainly a challenging time. Over the staple of garlicky sausage and coffee, i was grilled on the knotty issues of tithing, the millennium and the theology of the modern nation state of Israel – and that was before we got onto any of the nitty-gritty stuff of our time together: preaching!
- Extraordinary Banking: couldn’t resist taking a quick snap of this advert in the arrivals hall of Tirana airport. In case you can’t quite catch it, Raiffeisen Bank is spreading the word of its wares, in English no less, by decalring ‘Banking with us is an extraordinary experience’. Well in these financially turbulent times, I’m sure this is not a particularly unique selling point.
- World Wrestling: well it just so happens that where we are staying is also one of the main hotels hosting the teams competing in the World Wrestling Games. So far, only the Albanian team has been present. But we are promised all kinds of other groups. Each table has a country label on it – slightly alarmingly our table sits in between India and Pakistan. I don’t rate our chances for being able to prevent scuffles or international antagonism. Pray!
- The horrors of the Blood Feud: I’d heard about the centuries old Balkan culture of blood feuds, but had never come across it until now. One of our number has tragically been caught up in it. A member of his extended family murdered someone from another family – which was in turn a reprisal for a murder by that family of one his own relations. And it goes back generations. What it has meant is that our friend has not been able to go out of his house unaccompanied for the last 3 years. The other family has put a 5-figure Euro price on his head. He has therefore had to train his leaders from inside his house and hasn’t been able to go to church for years. He can only get out of his city to come to events like ours if he leaves in the early hours of the morning. It is a terrible predicament and one that seems humanly impossible to escape from.